An Taisce eZine - February 2017

27th February 2017

Dun Laoghaire Through the Painter's Eye

Local Association Event
Monday, March 6, 2017
St. Patrick's Hall, Monkstown

This event will consist of an illustrated talk by artist, Peter Pearson. Pearson is best known for his evocative paintings of cities and architectural subjects, principally of Dublin, his native city. He has however other strands in his painting including landscape and seascape, and an element of symbolism and the surreal are also sometimes found in his work. Many of the city subjects depict the changing city, portraying decay, loss of identity along with haunting beauty of the older houses and buildings. Cranes and traffic, often painted in winter light or by night are favourite features, and give the pictures a contemporary character.

Pearson's pictures evoke the mood of the city and celebrate its historical symbolism and heritage issues, which the artist has been campaigning to protect for over thirty years. His first significant solo exhibition was in Venice in 1978 where he had been studying on an Italian Government Scholarship for painting. He has been exhibiting his work continuously ever since and his paintings are to be seen in many public and private collections.

The talk will take place at 8pm on Monday 6th March.
Admission is €5.

Info: 087 9537959

National Tree Week

Local Association Event
Friday, March 10, 2017
Carysfort Park

Senator Victor Boyhan will join children from Carysfort National School in the planting of an oak tree at Carysfort Park. This event is supported by Dun Laoghaire/ Rathdown County Council Parks department and is happening as part of National Tree Week. Tree Week, organised by the Tree Council of Ireland since 1985, is a week long programme of events to celebrate trees. Tree Week 2017 runs from Sunday March 5th until Sunday March 12th.

Meet at the Children's playground just inside the main Carysfort entrance to Smurfit College (on Carysfort Avenue).

The event will take place at 11 am on Friday 10th March.

Lecture 'History in Postcards'

Local Association Event
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
The Goat Lounge, Goatstown, Dublin 14

This illustrated talk 'History in Postcards' will be given by Tony Behan of The Old Dublin Society. The lecture starts at 8pm. For more information contact: Eileen Collins Telephone: 01 2984838

Cost An Taisce Members: 
€4
Cost Non Members: 
€5

An Taisce National Spring Clean at Booterstown

National An Taisce Event
Local Association Event
Sunday, April 23, 2017
Booterstown

An Taisce Dun Laoghaire are once again giving everyone another opportunity to join this year's Spring Clean at the Booterstown Nature Reserve on Sunday 23rd April. The clean-up is taking place as part of The National Spring Clean organised by An Taisce.

An Taisce National Spring Clean

An Taisce's National Spring Clean is Ireland’s most popular, well recognized and successful anti-litter initiative. Taking place during the whole month of April and now in its 18th year, the campaign encourages every sector of society to actively participate and take responsibility for litter, by actually conducting clean ups in their own local environment. Whether a community, group, school or just an individual, anyone can get involved and it's so easy. Organize for a clean up of your local area, to take place any time during April, and register your event online, by phone, fax or post. Once you have registered you will receive a FREE clean-up kit from An Taisce. For more information about the programme and to register online go to http://www.nationalspringclean.org/.

An Taisce Environmental Education Unit is a founding member of the Clean Europe Network. The Clean Europe Network brings together Europe’s leading litter prevention organisations in an EU-level network to share knowledge and transfer best practice. National Spring Clean is recognised by the Clean Europe Network as a best practice action.

The Booterstown clean-up will take place on Sunday 23rd April at 2pm. The meeting point is Booterstown DART station. You are advised to bring boots and gloves. Tea afterwards.

Lecture 'Irish Stone Bridges'

Local Association Event
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
The Goat Lounge, Goatstown, Dublin 14

This illustrated talk 'Irish Stone Bridges' will be given by Rob Goodbody, local historian. The lecture starts at 8pm. For more information contact: Eileen Collins Telephone: 01 2984838

Cost An Taisce Members: 
€4
Cost Non Members: 
€5

Help to save wildlife on arable farmland

11th January 2017
News Item

You may remember back in October we alerted you all to the Irish Government's attempts to block a ban on the use of pesticides in Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs). Despite ongoing efforts from the EU's powerful farming lobby and various governments including our own, the European Commission has now approved a proposal to ban “the use of plant protection products on some EFAs. It is motivated by the need to improve the environmental effectiveness of greening and, in particular, to maximise EFAs' biodiversity's effect.” Needless to say this is the very least the Commission should be looking to do. Handing over billions in tax-payers' money to large arable farmers in return for farm-level biodiversity areas which can be sprayed with toxic chemicals does not make sense on any level.

This modest move from the Commission is the bare minimum that is required to salvage some credibility for its ‘greening’ of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Even this small positive action however is being strongly contested by the European farmers' union COPA-COGECA who right now are mobilising member states and MEPs to oppose the ban on pesticides. It has already been demonstrated through the campaign to save the Birds and Habitats Directives that EU citizens can positively effect EU biodiversity policies when we act.

The European Commission has right now issued an online consultation on the proposal to ban pesticides in EFAs. The deadline for comments is TOMORROW Thursday the 12th January so we are calling on you to take two minutes to fill in the EC consultation!: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/ares-2016-6991856_en Please leave a comment about why pesticides should be banned in EFAs.

If your short of a little inspiration here is what An Taisce had to say: “It is widely accepted that agricultural intensification is the greatest driver of terrestrial biodiversity loss in Europe. The need to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture in Europe is the most important action the EU must take to tackle the ongoing global mass extinction event being driven by humanity. The CAP has a budget of 58 billion euro a year, which accounts for about 40% of the EU’s total budget. Under ‘greening’ it was agreed that 30% of EU countries' direct payment budgets or 12 billion euro a year would be reserved for certain practices aimed at addressing biodiversity loss, avoiding crop monoculture and securing carbon sequestration. Ecological Focus Areas were introduced as part of the ‘Greening' of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy under the 2013 CAP reform. EFAs were established ‘to safeguard and improve biodiversity on farms’ as per recital 44 of Reg.1307/2013 “by boosting natural processes and so strengthening the ecosystem functions that are essential for the long term productivity and intrinsic fertility of our food production systems.” The use of pesticides in EFAs fundamentally destroys the ability of these areas to host natural processes or to carry out ecosystem functions. This practice critically undermines the credibility of 'greening.' EFAs which cannot support life do not contribute to the conservation of biological diversity in the EU in any way and are a waste of taxpayers money. Any efforts to tackle biodiversity loss under the CAP must be commensurate with the scale of the threats/pressures facing habitats and species associated with agricultural systems. Even banning pesticides in EFAs will not be enough to achieve the EU's 'No Net Loss' objective by 2020 but it is certainly a start. If greening fails then the CAP's budget must be called into question.”

Some Background to CAP ‘Greening’ and EFA’s

Ecological Focus Areas were introduced as part of the ‘Greening' of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy under the 2013 CAP reform. The need to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture in Europe came with the recognition that the intensification of agriculture, which was driven in the main by EU policies and subsidies had seriously degraded the environment in Europe, driving biodiversity loss and water pollution. The CAP has a budget of 58 billion euro a year, which accounts for about 40% of the EU’s total budget. Under ‘greening’ it was agreed that 30% of EU countries' direct payment budgets or 12 billion euro a year would be reserved for certain practices aimed at addressing biodiversity loss, avoiding crop monoculture and securing carbon sequestration.

Ireland is one of 18 member states who have moved to block a ban on pesticides in Ecological Focus Areas. The move echoes the efforts in 2013 of the then Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney to block a ban on pesticides within the EU linked to collapses in bee populations in Europe. Despite the expensive marketing of Irish agriculture as a leader in sustainable food and drink production under Bord Bia’s Origin Green initiative it is clear that the Irish government remains as backward as ever when it comes to environmental issues.

One of the key proposals under greening was the introduction of Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) on large arable farms. The scale and intensity of fertiliser and pesticide use in the EU's arable farming sector had resulted in extensive biodiversity loss, water pollution and soil degradation in many parts of Europe. To try to redress this, Europe’s farmers were obliged under greening to dedicate a minimum of 5% of their arable spaces to EFAs. These EFAs range from areas where land is left fallow, to landscape features such as hedgerows, trees, buffer strips, afforested and agro-forestry areas, and measures such as catch crops and winter green cover. The idea was that these areas would be free of intensive land use, free of pesticides and fertilisers so that there would be space for wildlife to live and for essential natural processes such as pollination, soil formation and water purification to take place. It was envisioned that these EFAs would form essential environmental infrastructure from the farm to the landscape level.

Unfortunately the ambition of the EFAs was critically undermined by the successful lobbying of agribusiness lobbyists who convinced agricultural ministers of 23 Member States (including Ireland) to send a letter to the Commission to allow the use of pesticides and fertilisers in EFAs. The Commission caved under pressure and left the banning of pesticides in EFA’s to the discretion of the individual EU states. The Irish government not surprisingly did not ban the use of pesticides and fertilisers in EFAs leaving us with the incomprehensible situation where billions of taxpayers’ money are being invested in farm level protected areas which can be sprayed with herbicides to kill all plant life and sprayed with pesticides that destroy all insect life.

Environmental groups such as An Taisce have been urging the European Commission to address this abhorrent situation and place an outright ban on inputs in EFAs so that they can deliver the environmental benefits which EU citizens have paid for. The establishment of EFAs which are capable of supporting life is the bare minimum that should be expected from a reform which promised a "greener and fairer” CAP. In response the European Commission (EC) has put forward proposals to amend the greening provisions under CAP, including ban on the use of herbicides and pesticides in EFAs. In response to this progressive move a delegation of 18 countries including Ireland have sent a joint statement to the European Commission ahead of an Agriculture Council meeting on Monday calling on the amendment to be dropped.

Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce said: “Despite the rhetoric and the expensive Origin Green advertising, it is clear that nothing has changed when it comes to the Irish government's attitude to the environment. Successive Irish Agricultural Ministers have cemented our position as one of the most toxic countries in the European Union when it comes to the environment. Ireland has consistently sought to undermine any move which would address the impact of pesticides on wildlife and reduce the environmental impact of arable farming in the EU. To be clear, in 2015, €364,500,900 will be handed to Irish farmers for greening measures which the Irish government intends to render meaningless. Large arable farmers will be handed taxpayers money based solely on the amount of land they own and thanks to the government they will be given millions of euros in environmental payments for strips of land that can be sprayed with chemicals so that they support no life. This is an insult to us all”.

An Taisce and 80 Civil Society Groups, are calling on MEPs to reject the EU Canada trade deal

12th January 2017
Press Release

An Taisce is calling on MEPs to oppose the EU Canada trade deal known as CETA. [1]

The trade deal is making its way through the European Parliament. Today a European Parliament committee voted in favour of the deal. The final vote on CETA will be taken by the whole Parliament on February 14th.

The trade deal, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement or CETA, will compromise laws which protect health, food standards, the environment, worker's rights, and the rule of law in the EU as we know it.

The most controversial element is that the agreement will allow foreign companies to sue countries that introduce laws & policies which impact on their profits. This will put countries like Ireland under pressure not to bring in laws which limit businesses in any way, laws that may be designed to limit tobacco use or pollution levels, for example.

Prof John Sweeney, former President of An Taisce commented:

"A key concern is how the fear of being sued under CETA and how other elements of the deal will compromise essential action on climate change by Governments and the EU. Today's vote in favour of the CETA is a nail in the coffin of effective climate action."

ENDS

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

[1] "CETA" - The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement here [2] The European Parliamentary Committee is ENVI with responsibility for environment, public health and food safety.

Click here to see the letter sent by Irish civil society groups

**Background **

Today, Thursday 12th Jan the ENVI Committee of MEPS with responsibility for Environment, Public Health and Food safety voted on a draft opinion prepared by rapporteur Bart Staes about the CETA, which recommended rejection of the CETA. CETA is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement negotiated by the EU and Canada. The Committee first voted this morning on a series of ammendments to radically alter the opinion so that it became in favour of the deal and then voted to recommend acceptance of the deal.

Irish MEPs Nessa Childers, Lynn Boylan and Brian Crowley are full members of the ENVI Committee entitled to vote in ENVI today, Luke Ming-Flanagan and Mairead McGuinness are substitutes on the Committee without voting rights.

Following on from the ENVI vote, the EU Parliament's INTA Committee with responsibility for Trade is expected to vote on an opinion in favour of the deal.

At the end of 2016, the EMPL committee with responsibility for Employment and Social Affairs supported an opinion rejecting the CETA which outlined serious concerns about the impact of the CETA agreement on employment in the EU.

The EU Parliament is expected to vote on the CETA agreement in a full plenary on February 14th.

All MEPS will be entitled to vote in the plenary vote of the European Parliament on the agreement in February.

The vote of the EU Parliament in February will effectively clear the way for the implementation of many problematic elements of the agreement even before it comes before National Parliaments. This advance implementation is a process known as "Provisional Application".

The signatories to the letter to the ENVI MEPS are concerned about the negative implications of many of the elements of the agreement which would come in under Provisional Application, even though it has been agreed to not include in the Provisional Application the most controversial element - the Investment Court System, ICS which is the extra-judicial Investment Arbitration system which allows Big Business sue Sovereign Governments for introducing policy and regulation which impacts on their profitability.

Given Ireland's high level of Foreign Direct Investment - the exposure to such claims is considered to be very significant. While many other EU Member States Ireland have already been subject to similar Investment Arbitration Systems known as Investment Settlement Dispute System, ISDS through various Bi-lateral Investment Treaties, Ireland is quite unique in currently having very limited exposure to them. The Investment arbitration proposals in the CETA will transform this increasing the level of exposure right across the EU.

The CETA check tool enables citizens to simply request their MEP to vote against the CETA.

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

An Taisce calls on Minister Noonan to tax dirty diesel and change VRT to encourage electric cars

13th January 2017
Press Release

The diesel emissions scandal, which started with Volkswagen, is now sweeping across the entire motor industry, with Renault, and Fiat Chrysler among the latest big name brands to be accused of cheating emissions tests.

What this proves, once and for all, is that diesel engines are too dirty – and dangerous to human health – to be allowed to continue to enjoy low tax rates (11 cent per litre less than petrol) and cheaper prices at the pumps, according to An Taisce, which also favours banning diesel vehicles from built-up areas, including Dublin city centre.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan missed the opportunity in the 2017 Budget to increase duties on diesel so that it was at least as expensive per litre as petrol. Diesel exhaust fumes are rated by the World Health Organisation as carcinogenic. These fumes contain a toxic mix of nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter and carbon monoxide.

Every diesel vehicle on the road in Ireland today is contributing to an annual death toll of some 1,200 people as a direct result of air pollution. In addition, recent World Bank data estimates air pollution cost Ireland €58m in days lost at work every year and €2.2bn in annual welfare losses.

“We welcome moves by the US Environmental Protection Agency to begin criminal proceedings against named individuals within Volkswagen who allegedly conspired to fit illegal ‘cheat’ devices to cars to enable them to pass emissions tests”, according to Charles Stanley-Smith of An Taisce.

“These are not victimless crimes. Millions of people worldwide, and thousands here in Ireland, are having their health destroyed and lives ended prematurely as a result of these appalling corporate deceptions. The fact that Volkswagen labelled these cars ‘clean diesel’ while knowing this to be completely false is further evidence that criminal behaviour can only be addressed with criminal sanctions”, Stanley-Smith added. Similar action from EU regulators is urgently needed.

"Diesel carmakers have clearly been cheating abominably, without a moment's thought for the devastating health consequences of their lies” according to James Nix of An Taisce. “There's a clear and urgent need now to reform the Irish VRT and motor tax systems for new cars to tilt sales decisively away from diesels and towards electric”.

Politically, Mr Nix added, such reform would be relatively pain-free as it wouldn't affect any vehicles already on the road.

The rapid transitioning of the national fleet of private cars to electric need renewed support from government and agencies such as the ESB. “Almost all the reasons holding back the switch to electric vehicles are now resolved. Many new models can comfortably do 200km on a single charge, but we need to invest in fast-charging stations and offer incentives such as access to bus lanes, to tip the balance decisively in favour of electric vehicles”, Charles Stanley-Smith of An Taisce concluded.

ENDS

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee. Tel: +353 87 233 2689
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

Trump and Doonbeg - ‘Environmental tricks’ and EU bureaucracy

16th January 2017
News Item

Apparent recent comments from US President-elect Donald Trump would seem an admission of defeat regarding proposed construction of the coastal defence wall at Doonbeg Resort in Co. Clare.

'I couldn’t care less about it',

Mr. Trump has stated.

In what he bemoans an ‘unpleasant experience’, failed first attempts to gain approval for a 2.8km, 4.5m high seawall have caused him to say

‘...forget it, I’m not gonna build it.’

However, despite appearances, the matter is far from over, given the fact that, currently awaiting approval by Clare County Council, is a subsequent application, in which plans for a seawall have been replaced by plans to install two lengths of sheet piling over distances of about 609m and 256m, at the northern and southern end of Doughmore bay respectively.

White Strand Beach and the Carrowmore dunes, a beautiful area of coastline, have for many years been popular with surfers and holiday-makers alike. Not only do they provide recreational opportunities for both visitors and locals alike, but have also provided generations of protection to the adjoining land from flooding. While it has previously been put forward by Trump International Golf Links that planned coastal works in the area would ultimately save the dunes and protect the golf course, this is not the case. Due to inappropriate design and siting of the golf course itself, the dunes are being prevented from retreating.

In what could be interpreted as a further lament of the supposed ‘ills’ of the EU, Mr. Trump has cited planning difficulties at Doonbeg as a ‘a classic example of EU bureaucracy’. He has criticised the use of what he calls ‘environmental tricks’ to stop the project being built. However, these so-called ‘environmental tricks’ referred to by Mr. Trump are in fact a clear example of the vital mechanism, enshrined in national law, which allows for public consultation and the rights of Irish citizens (and more broadly EU citizens) to protect their environment, providing a forum for the voicing of legitimate concerns.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, RTE Radio 1, this morning, Department of Education Minister, Richard Bruton, when asked his opinion on Mr. Trump’s views, came out in defence of such environmental protections. He highlighted the necessity of those measures in order ‘to protect Ireland and its fantastic heritage and assets’, stating he stood ‘foursquare’ behind them. He added, ‘they are enforced fairly without fear or favour by the local authority and An Bord Pleanala where there is a dispute’.

The Carrowmore dunes are a protected habitat under the Nature 2000 as a Special Area of Conservation due to the important dune systems and wildlife contained within it and in the surrounding area. The use of mechanisms, such as those provided on regional, national and EU levels are vital to ensure environmental protection for areas such as these.

The original proposed plans for Doonbeg would have had (and further proposals may still have) the potential to irreversibly damage the dune system through dune starvation, preventing natural adaptation and the accretion of sand that has been occurring for centuries. This could also have a dramatic impact on the surrounding landscape, with the potential to affect adjacent habitats such as wetlands and lead to more issues down the line such as displaced flooding elsewhere. The proposal to relocate two holes of the course may seem a viable solution, yet the overall revised proposals still have the potential to negatively affect the area.

Other countries have found viable ways to protect their coasts without damaging their ecosystems. The Dutch are working towards protecting and restoring sand dune systems, having recognised this approach as more effective, in both physical and monetary terms, at protecting the coast than hard coastal protection works [Note 1 & Note 2]. With the right management and investment, better alternatives can be found than those so far put forward for Doonbeg.

The application to Clare County Council remains open for objections until 3rd February.

Note:

  1. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) (2014b) Carrowmore Dunes SAC Conservation Objectives Supporting Document: Marine Habitats, [online] available: http://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/002250%20Carrowmore%20Dunes%20SAC%20Marine%20Supporting%20Doc%20V1.pdf

  2. Arens, S. M. & Geelen, L. H. W. T. (2006) Dune landscape rejuvenation by intended destabilisation in the amsterdam water supply dunes. Journal of Coastal Research, pp. 22: 1094-1107.

An Taisce's Submission on the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021

25th January 2017
Submission Summary

An Taisce is one of two Environmental Pillar representatives who sit on the Biodiversity Forum. The Environmental Pillar is made up of 28 national environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who work together to represent the views of the Irish environmental sector. While An Taisce represents the Environmental Pillar within the Biodiversity Forum, this submission reflects the views of An Taisce alone. An Taisce has fed into the current draft of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 (NBAP) through our participation in the Biodiversity Forum and we have previously made a submission on an earlier draft of the NBAP. That submission and the previous draft of the NBAP are referred to in our submission.

It is clear from the NPWS’s Article 17 and Article 12 reports on the conservation status of Annexed habitats and species under the Habitats and Birds Directives respectively that current and future conservation threats and pressures on habitats and species are well known. The species which need prioritised action are also known. It is also clear, based on the terminal declines in the conservation status of many habitats and species over the last twenty years that if serious action is not taken immediately, there is no hope of saving many of our most cherished species from the abyss of extinction. Many of these issues are not unique to Ireland or even the EU. It is accepted that we are living through the Earth’s sixth mass extinction event and that this stark chapter in our planet’s history is being driven by human activities. The major pressures on biodiversity globally include: loss, degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats; over-exploitation of biological resources; pollution; the impacts of invasive alien species on ecosystems; and climate change and the acidification of the oceans. We know that in Ireland the main drivers of biodiversity loss are unsustainable land use change and unsustainable resource use. The main sectors driving these pressures are the agricultural sector, the forestry sector, mining including peat extraction, fisheries and aquaculture, and infrastructure. These sectors are regulated by the government, driven by government policy, subsidised by public money and in the case of Bord na Mona or Coillte state or semi-state owned. It is very clear that the government therefore has it within its power to make huge strides in tackling biodiversity loss over the next four years, if the political will to do so exists. This could be achieved by improving environmental regulation and enforcement. By ensuring that the most damaging sectors start operating in a sustainable way and that they are legally compliant with Irish and EU law. Government and sectoral policies and strategies must be reviewed and altered so that they are compatible with the cross-cutting challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change. Biodiversity loss is one of the most critical issues of our epoch. The response from our leaders must me commensurate with the scale of the challenge we face.

In the past, top down approaches to conservation have in many instances hindered progress and created distrust and resentment towards the NPWS and environmentalists. Communities must be educated about the importance of biodiversity and empowered to lead the way in its conservation. Bottom-up solutions are clearly the way forward but they are not strongly emphasised within the NBAP. Conservationists must work closer together in collaboration with each other and with the broader community. Agri-environmental schemes should be place-based, targeted, multi-annual and developed in collaboration with farmers and environmental experts. Structural supports for farming, such as decoupled area-based payments, have driven environmental degradation and failed to protected small and marginal farmers or prevent the ongoing collapse of many rural communities. We need rural development policies which offer more than socialism for the rich and free market economics for the poor. We need to reward the custodians of biodiversity and offer incentives which are consistent with the true services they provide. This means looking beyond the myopic lens of the volume of food produced and start looking at the quality of food produced, the added value, the ecosystem services supported and the true socio-economic benefits. The intangible benefits of biodiversity must be valued while at the same time we must not reduce them to commodities which can be dispensed with by the highest bidder.

The Polluter Pays Principle must be enforced. Our environment belongs to us all, to all living things and to future generations. No one should have the right to damage or degrade our shared birth right for their own short term benefit. Anyone who does damage the environment should have to pay to have it restored. Any industries which are externalising the true cost of their operations on the environment and society are not compatible with the indivisible reality that we live on a finite planet with a limited capacity to absorb our pollution and replenish its resources. Such industries must evolve to reflect this reality or be forced to go extinct and be replaced with systems which operate in a way which ensures that species have the right to exist and that the long-term interests of society are more important than the short-term interest of the few.

Please find 74 page submission attached. If you have any questions about the report or on the work that An Taisce advocacy do to protect our natural heritage please contact naturalenvironment@antaisce.org

Download PDF: 
Download PDF (1.21 MB)

Ireland exploits Loopholes to make Nonsense of Climate Goals

25th January 2017
Press Release

Ireland’s reputation in the international community has been badly damaged in recent years by revelations of our tolerance for ‘creative accounting’ that has allowed foreign firms, including vulture funds masquerading as charities, to avoid paying tax on billions of euros of income.

Now, it seems that Ireland has done it again, and this time the creative accounting is in the series of loopholes the Irish government has negotiated with the EU to allow us to almost completely shirk all requirements on carbon emissions reductions.

According to a newly built ‘Carbon Market Watch’ online tool [1][2] developed by Transport & Environment (Brussels based NGO), Ireland has managed to water down its commitment to carbon cuts from 2020 to 2030 to a ludicrous 0.4%, a completely meaningless action that simply serves to sabotage EU-wide efforts to stem dangerous climate change in the little time remaining.

No other EU country has achieved as outrageous a reduction in its carbon-cutting obligations. According to the T&E online calculator, the ‘total loopholes’ exploited by Ireland between now and 2030 amount to almost 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂). Across the EU28, the average 2030 target will be 23%, down from the slated 30% ambition, but still light years ahead of Ireland’s contribution.

The biggest sleight of hand that Ireland has availed of to fiddle the figures is to claim huge allowances for ‘LULUCF offsets’. These are credits for changes in land use, specifically tree planting or managing cropland and grassland, to offset agricultural and other emissions.

However, any forestry expansion being proposed in Ireland is simply to grow forestry that will within a decade or two be then cut down and burned as biomass, meaning much of the alleged ‘carbon savings’ go straight back into the atmosphere as CO₂.

Further, when considering ‘land use’ and carbon, no account has been taken of the millions of tons in annual carbon emissions emanating from the draining and cutting of bogs by Bord Na Mona as well as hundreds of other individuals and contractors engaged in government-sanctioned (and subsidised) widespread bog destruction.

“Attention has rightly been drawn in recent weeks to the Trump administration’s shameful and unprecedented assault on the science and reality of climate change, but in reality, what the Irish government is doing ‘below the radar’ is arguably every bit as reckless and irresponsible”, according to John Gibbons of An Taisce’s Climate Change Committee.

Newly published international research[3], with input from Prof Peter Thorne, NUI Maynooth, has established that globally, temperatures in 2015 were a full 1.0ºC over pre-industrial averages, with 2017 1.1ºC over pre-industrial, meaning even more urgent carbon cuts across all sectors are going to be required.

“This government, headed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, is leading Ireland further and further down a road to climate ruin. As the Taoiseach himself said in November 2015: “Either we act now or it will be too late to curb rising temperatures and limit the damage to our planet”. The time for excuses and equivocation is over, it’s time the Irish public demanded Mr Kenny and his government made good on his promises”, John Gibbons concluded.

ENDS

John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee. Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes
[1] Effort Sharing Emissions Calculator http://effortsharing.org/
[2] Image of Effort Sharing Emissions Calculator https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEaHAwVVp3VzZWb0k/view?usp=sharing
[3] Journal of the American Metrological Society http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/10.1175/BAMS-D-16-0007.1

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

An Taisce awaiting more details on proposals for Westport House

27th January 2017
Press Release

An Taisce is reserving comment on the reported sale of Westport House and Demense to the Westport based Hughes Family, pending information on the developments proposed.

Information made available today states that a €50 million investment is proposed. No information is, as yet, available on those proposed developments or the future of the remaining historic paintings and other contents, which are an integral part of the heritage of the house, and the history of Co Mayo.

It is essential to the maintenance of Westport as one of Connacht’s premier heritage and tourism locations that future development be compatible with the maintenance of the historic character and setting of the house and its designed landscape grounds.

ENDS

Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

An Taisce makes second submission to the Trump’s Doonbeg Wall

3rd February 2017
Press Release

An Taisce has made its submission [1] to Clare County Council in regard to the most recent planning application by Trump International Golf Links Ireland (TIGL) for permission to construct coastal erosion management works at and adjacent to Carrowmore Dunes, White Strand, Doughmore Bay and Trump International Golf Links and Hotel, Doonbeg, Co. Clare.

The proposed development is to include two lengths of sheet piling over distances of approximately 609m and 256m, at the northern and southern end of Doughmore bay respectively.

An Taisce raises a number of objections to the proposal, many of which have been raised in our previous submission [2].

First and foremost, the proposal is being lauded as a solution to the problem of erosion. However, this is not the case.

What must be acknowledged is one of the root causes; the inappropriate design and siting of the golf course itself. Sea defence and stabilization works, and the expansion and development of golf courses have been noted as two of the leading drivers of sand dune loss internationally. The NPWS acknowledge, regarding Doonbeg, that ‘physical obstruction’ (i.e. coastal protection works), are their greatest concern for the conservation of the site [3]. The dunes are under pressure from coastal squeeze, (which occurs when the natural process of landward migration is prevented by coastal development and land use change), further compounded by the effect and sea-level rise caused by climate change.

The proposed development will not solve the problem but rather exacerbate it. This assertion is supported by points made by coastal experts William J. Neal, Emeritus Professor of Geology Grand Valley State University; Orrin Pilkey, James B. Duke Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences, Duke University; Andrew Cooper, of Coastal Studies, University of Ulster; and Joseph Kelley, Professor of Geology, University of Maine; who point out that the proposed works still amount to the installation of ‘beach-destroying seawalls.”

“...seawalls beget seawalls, and once these smaller walls are constructed, accelerated erosion will occur at the ends of the walls as well as beach steepening and probable narrowing in front of the walls. [...] Seawalls destroy beaches and if that ‘solution’ is followed ‘bigger and better’ walls will be needed as the wave size increases and sea-level rises [4].”

An Taisce maintains therefore, that not only will the proposed construction not solve the problem of erosion but it will likely have further negative consequences, such as increased erosion elsewhere, habitat loss and threats to nearby wetlands. The dunes themselves harbour important habitat and species, whose value and conservation status is not adequately addressed within the EIS.

An Taisce supports conservation approaches taken in other countries such as the UK, the USA and the Netherlands where coastal dunes have been recognised as important multifunctional landscapes. The approach of the Netherlands of soft-protection and active restoration of dune systems has proven to be more successful and cost-effective.

Therefore, An Taisce feels that the most cost effective and environmentally sustainable solution would be the redesign of the golf course itself, an option which has at no point in the application been considered.

This would allow the natural processes of erosion and accretion to continue, allowing the dune system to perform its function of protecting the land from effects of sea-level rise without destroying the habitat of the area and resulting in more serious impacts.

Fintan Kelly, An Taisce’s Natural Heritage Officer stated

The solution being put forward by Trump International Golf Links Ltd is bad for the people who love White Strand the Beach, Surf and Dunes and the protected habitats and species that depend upon its sustainable management. There may be new Trumps in charge and a new application but the negative impacts here haven’t changed. The conservation of sand dunes internationally has proven that they are more cost effective at protecting the coast than hard sea defenses and that they supply valued biodiversity and ecosystem services to local communities. The proposal is not supported by the scientific consensus that sea walls are not compatible with sand dune conservation. The golf course design and management simply has to change.

ENDS

Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 707 7063
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes
[1] An Taisce's submission https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEN3ZUQ2V6cUhqZEE/view?usp=sharing
[2] An Taisce’s first submission https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEX1dWemhjdmJFQjg/view?usp=sharing
[3] National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) (2014b) Carrowmore Dunes SAC Conservation Objectives Supporting Document: Marine Habitats, [online] available: http://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/002250%20Carrowmore%20Dunes%20SAC%20Marine%20Supporting%20Doc%20V1.pdf
[4] From a letter addressed to Mr. Pat Dowling, Chief Executive, Clare County Council.

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

Reviewing Buildings at Risk (2017)

3rd February 2017
News Item

The Built Environment unit of An Taisce took time over January to review the very popular database for structures at risk, which was originally released in November 2014. In this we published some 100 buildings and structures at risk which were considered significant nationally and regionally and required intervention to prevent further deterioration. If you would like to read the full publication, please click here. While there has been movement to securing certain buildings, for example Hazelwood House, Sligo which has been incorporated into a plan for a distillery, the majority of buildings recorded remain at risk and are being increasingly lost. This loss is seen in the example of Vernon Mount in Cork, which saw several fires gut the building in 2016. And the list, unfortunately, is only growing longer. An Taisce have added the following buildings:

An Taisce would like to thank our members and several individuals who identified and provided information on the buildings noted above. It may be the case that you know of a structure at risk before An Taisce is made aware of it. An Taisce requires the input of individuals and local communities to contribute information to keep the Register as up to date as possible. It is up to you to gather information on a structure at risk in your own community. The data collected is crucial in identifying, encouraging and proactively pursuing the restoration and re-use of individual structures at risk. The information also supports more strategic and area based initiatives where levels of risk are concentrated, where problems can be identified and flagged, priorities set and recommendations made for action. If you wish to let us know about a structure at risk, take a photograph and get in contact. If you wish to suggest a building at risk you are familiar with, please take the time to fill out the following form.

The Buildings at Risk Register is an unfunded project by An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland supported and maintained by its voluntary members. The Buildings at Risk Register was put in place in response to a concern at the growing number of structures that are vacant and falling into a state of disrepair. The Register provides information on structures of architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest throughout the country that are considered to be at risk. This project is incredibly resource intensive. An Taisce would welcome any donations to ensure its continuity into the future given it is currently unfunded and being resourced to a large part by volunteers throughout the country.

An Taisce welcomes the ruling of An Bord Pleanála to overturn the decision to grant permission for a major retail expansion at Liffey Valley shopping centre.

10th February 2017
Press Release

An Taisce welcomes the ruling of An Bord Pleanála in overturning the decision by South Dublin County Council to grant permission for a major retail expansion combined with a new skating and multi-use event venue at Liffey Valley shopping centre.

The application was refused on grounds of inadequate public transport access and potential congestion impact on the M50 and other roads. The decision is a major vindication of the role of An Taisce, as a voluntary organisation, in promoting good planning.

It also raises the question as to why Transport Infrastructure Ireland which had raised critical concerns about the traffic impact of the development at application stage did not appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

The development site has a problematic history. Formerly called Quarryvale, it was rezoned under controversial circumstances in the early 1990s contravening strategic planning policy for the Greater Dublin Area on public transport access and on new town centre development location.

Commenting on the decision, Ian Lumley, An Taisce's Heritage Officer stated "Bad zoning and planning decisions never go away and have an adverse impact through the decades."

ENDS

Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 454 1786
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

An Taisce's submission on Independent Aquaculture Licensing Review

14th February 2017
Submission Summary

An Taisce made the following submission as part of the Public Consultation on the Independent Aquaculture Licensing Review 2017.

The objectives of the review are as follows:

Having regard to Government policy, the Independent Review Group will aim to identify changes required to the aquaculture licence process and its associated legal framework that will:

  • Deliver licence determinations in a timely manner, having regard to international best practice and applicable EU and national law;
  • Support achievement of the actions and priorities of Food Wise 2025 and the National Strategic Plan for Sustainable Aquaculture Development;
  • Facilitate enhanced transparency in the licensing process for all stakeholders;
  • Ensure legally robust licence determinations having regard to EU and national law.

An Taisce supports the sustainable and balanced development of aquaculture. However, there are number of concerns which are associated with aquaculture activities, which are reflected in the following submission. An Taisce advocates that licenses should be granted on the basis that they do not cause degradation in the area of the aquaculture facility or adverse impacts to local habitats or species.

As laid out in the submission, the licensing process should operate on the precautionary principle and adopt an ecosystem-based management approach, taking into account cumulative impacts, carrying capacity and appropriate siting of aquaculture operations. Attention should be paid to prevent the establishment of invasive species (such as the Pacific Oyster) within Irish waters. It must follow all the legal obligations and considerations laid out under the Habitats and Birds Directives. The submission also highlights concerns such as the accumulation of waste, alteration of the nutrient balance and changes in macrofauna benthic communities and their impacts on ecosystems as a whole. It also refers to concerns particularly in relation to finfish aquaculture, such as the reduction in gene pool strength due to escaping aquaculture stock mating with wild populations, and transmission of diseases to wild stocks. The submission advocates for the consideration of alternative systems to mitigate these impacts, such as closed-containment systems. Additionally, the submission draws attention to the potential disturbance of aquaculture operations (particularly oyster trestle aquaculture) to birds and other species, especially in Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

An Taisce advocates for better consideration of these impacts within the licensing system. Additionally, there is a need for better consultation processes and a more balanced and transparent structure of licensing overall, with better separation of responsibility for that of licensing from that of industry development. It is mentioned in Foodwise 2025, that “a significant increase in food production cannot be considered in isolation from its environmental impact, in particular regarding concerns associated with the depletion of natural resources and the potential impact on climate change”. The pressure to grow the industry should not become an overarching goal, but rather remain in balance with sustainable production, for the benefit of communities and ecosystems in tandem.

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An Taisce’s submission against the Bord na Móna application for proposed horticulture facility, Naas, Co. Kildare

17th February 2017
Press Release

An Taisce’s submission on a proposed horticulture facility by Bord na Móna, Naas, Co Kildare, states that the scope of the project includes the sourcing of the horticultural peat from the Bord na Móna owned Allen Bog complex and that the environmental and social impacts in their totality have not been assessed [1].

There are direct parallels between the High Court ruling on Bord na Mona’s Edenderry Power Plant [2], in October 2015, regarding An Bord Pleanála's failure to fully assess the environmental impacts of the peat extraction which fuels the plant [3].

Less than two years later the same issue has arisen regarding the current application. The reports provided by Bord na Móna are failing to adequately address the full direct and indirect impacts of this project.

An Taisce notes that this development will only result in the recruitment of 6 new fulltime positions over the life time of the facility, the benefits of which would be countered by the many negative impacts.

Impacts of the development

Sustainability

The argument made in the application that “the horticultural processing is not the driver behind the peat extraction, rather market demand is the driver” has no basis. Contrary to what is indicated in the application, the proposed harvesting and processing of horticultural peat is not sustainable nor is it regarded as a renewable energy source.

Climate Impact

The multiple climate impacts of destroying such an area and degrading the total peat resource of within the site have not been addressed. Based on the figured presented by the applicant this development will result in the removal of 3,625,000 m³ over a 20 year period, about half of the total peat resource available within the bog (6,612,327 m³).

Flooding

The Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) of the application has failed to adequately assess the implications of degrading such a vast area of peatland, particularly in light of increasing likelihood of future flooding events due to climate change. Unsustainable utilisation of peatlands has undermined vital functions of storing carbon and water, filtering supplies and reducing risk of flooding and potentially millions of Euros worth of damage.

Water Quality

The application has not addressed impacts from the loss and degradation on the ecosystem services, sediment loss, impacts on drinking water quality (through presence of trihalomethanes-THMs), fish reproduction and damage to habitats and species such as the freshwater pearl mussel and salmonids.

Direct habitat impacts on site

It is of particular concern to An Taisce that no reference to Section 40 of the Wildlife Act has been made in relation to the destruction of habitat, particularly in relation Bog Woodland (Betula pubescens), a very distinctive priority habitat, before or during the construction of the proposed development.

Review

Neither past nor current management of peatlands in Ireland has been sustainable” according to the EPAs BOGLAND report.

The unsuitability of the horticultural peat industry led the EPAs BOGLAND report to recommend that “The Government should engage in a review of the use of peat in the horticultural industry and actively promote the use of peat-free horticultural growing medium in the retail market on the basis that these are sustainable products.”

The need for such a review has been recognised and has been adopted as an action in Ireland’s National Peatland Strategy.

An Taisce believe that such a review is long overdue, which should conclude with great certainty that the industry is virtually unparalleled in its destructive nature and must be wound down as soon as is feasibly possible.

ENDS

Fintan Kelly, Natural Environment Officer, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 707 7063
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes:
[1] https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxEVOTzgFnKEdW92R0ZfTWl2Mnc/view?usp=sharing
[2] http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-wins-legal-case-regarding-edenderry-peat-fired-power-station
[3] Judge White held that there was "functional interdependence" between the power plant and the Bord na Mona bogs in the planning application and that the source of the fuel should have been considered as part of the application for the continued operation of the power plant.

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

An Taisce Appeal Slieve Callan Wind Farm Approval

17th February 2017
News Item

An Taisce have made an appeal to An Bord Pleanála against the decision of Clare County Council to grant permission to Brookfield Renewable Ireland Ltd to construction of a wind farm comprising 11 turbines on Slieve Callan in Co. Clare. The potential impact on Hen Harriers is the main grounds of our appeal.

The Hen Harrier is a species identified for protection under Annex I of the Birds Directive. The application site is not located within an SPA, however, under Article 4 of the Birds Directive, Member States are required to strive to avoid pollution or deterioration of habitats of interest in areas outside specifically identified protection areas.

Based on best available evidence in the field, the Hen Harrier is Ireland’s rarest declining resident breeding bird species listed on Annex I of the Birds Directive. The Hen harrier is one of the best researched species in Ireland and based on the last two national breeding Hen Harrier surveys undertaken in 2010 and 2015 it is clear that the breeding Hen Harrier population, both nationally and in the six Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated to protect this iconic upland breeding species continues to decline (Ruddock et al., 2012; 2016). Overall, nationally the following has been recorded:

• 15% decline in confirmed breeding pairs in the last 5 years;

• a 33% breeding population decline in all areas studied in every national quinquennial survey over last 15 years; and

• a 52% decline in estimated breeding pairs over the last 40 years.

Based on the 2010 and 2015 National Breeding Hen Harrier Survey data it is clear that the area of the proposed wind farm is extremely important for Hen Harrier. It is one of the areas which has undergone the greatest decline in breeding pairs in recent years. This decline corresponds with the loss of foraging and breeding habitat, the maturation of commercial forestry and the construction of a number of wind farms locally. It is our considered opinion that the EIS and in particular the surveys for breeding and foraging Hen Harriers are fundamentally flawed as the assessment was based on a period of closed canopy commercial forestry and does not accurately identify the value of the habitat on site post felling. If the wind farm is constructed then it is likely that over the full cycle of the forestry on site, the regional Hen Harrier population would be negatively impacted. Such impacts may occur as a result of:

• The loss of habitat on site and in adjacent lands due to disturbance.

• Increased levels of mortality due to hen harrier collisions with wind turbine blades - the felling of forestry on site is likely to attract foraging Hen Harrier and unintentionally increase the likelihood of collisions.

The decision to approve this application has not adequately taken into account the seriousness of the national and regional decline of the breeding Hen Harrier population nor did it consider the consequences of the outlined negative impacts outlined in this context.

It is our considered opinion that the subject proposal would be contrary to 17.8 (a) and 17.9 (a) of the Clare County Development Plan which states that it is an objective of the Council to:

Ensure the protection and conservation of areas, sites, species and ecological networks/ corridors of local biodiversity value outside of designated sites throughout the County

and

To protect and promote the sustainable management of the natural heritage, flora and fauna of the County through the promotion of biodiversity, the conservation of natural habitats and the enhancement of new and existing habitats;

According to the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the North and West Clare area is within the areas in the country for designated and undesignated breeding Hen Harrier (Appendix 1). According to the 2015 National Survey of Breeding Hen Harrier there were 12-16 breeding pairs in 2010 and 3-9 in 2015 in North and West Clare. According to the survey authors “Overall north and west Clare has declined considerably since 2010 from the 12 – 16 pairs recorded, which represented the highest numbers for this area across all national surveys. The recorded declines since 2010 are primarily the result of reduced densities in occupied squares in west Clare, as increased activity was recorded in north Clare which held one possible pair in an area where breeding evidence has not been recorded in previous surveys. Despite declines since 2010, numbers recorded in north and west Clare have increased since the 2005 and 1998 – 2000 surveys.

Therefore based on the 2015 National Hen Harrier Survey data, 6 or potentially two thirds of the total breeding Hen harrier population (3-9 pairs) of one of the most important areas for breeding Hen Harrier in the country are located within foraging distance of the site.

Two National Co-ordinators of the 2015 National Hen Harrier Survey Dr Allan Mee and Tony Nagel confirmed that there were two confirmed nesting attempts in the 5km hinterland of the proposed development site – one at Tullaghaboy and one near Doolough. Both sites are in close proximity to the development site. The National and the EIS breeding surveys have identified two breeding pairs and a number of other possible breeding pairs with a maximum of 6 potential breeding pairs recorded by the 2015 National Hen Harrier Survey. The DoAHG have identified one breeding pair on the site.

The National Survey also recorded the regional breakdown of cumulative pressures to show total number of pressure records (Pressure Index 1) and standardised (Pressure Index 2 = total number of pressures / total number of visits to square) within 500m and 2km of Hen Harrier territories and/or suitable hen harrier breeding habitats. The North and West Clare study area had among the highest levels of recorded pressures in the country (Annex II). Windfarm construction and operation would add negatively to this. The 2015 breeding season bird survey also identified Hen Harrier as the most important species on site with 34 flight lines recorded in the EIS project area. 27 of the sightings involved Male Hen Harrier with seven sightings of ringtails. Given the greater foraging distances of Male Hen Harriers it is possible that the observed male Hen Harriers were part of significant regional breeding pairs. This is supported by the identification of a nest site in the Tullaghaboy area in 2015. Dr Barry O’Donoghue also identified a breeding pair in the Doolough in the 2015 breeding season. Such pairs are all the more significant given the extreme regional breeding population collapse in recent years.

According to the Winter Season Survey a total of 16 Hen Harrier Flight lines were recorded in the EIS Project Area. The short duration of sightings noted in the EIS is again typical of Hen Harriers commuting through closed canopy commercial forestry. The EIS is insufficient in providing details relating to the duration of sighting of Hen Harriers when forestry is cleared, creating more suitable foraging habitat.

Due to the habitat potential and the high Hen Harrier activity that has been recorded, it is our considered opinion that the proposal would have a negative impact on the local Hen Harrier population. Due to the existing windfarms in the vicinity of the site, it is considered that the cumulative displacements effects are likely to be significantly negative. As previously noted, the application proposes to fell 12.55 ha for Habitats and Species Management Plan Lands, as a habitats enhancement measure to benefit Hen Harriers in the local area. It is our considered opinion that this mitigation measure is inadequate when considering the overall footprint of the subject proposal and the cumulative impact of surrounding granted and operations wind farms.

Conclusion

It is our considered opinion that the proposed development does not comply with the objectives and policies of the Clare County Development Plan and would have a negative impact on the important Hen Harrier population in the area. The above assertion is made based on a review of the relevant Development Plan and the Planning File pertaining to the proposed development. An Taisce have requested that An Bord Pleanala overturn the decision of Clare County Council.

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An Taisce once more calls on Minister Heather Humphreys to protect the Late Bronze Age oak-built Roadway at Mayne in County Westmeath.

21st February 2017
Press Release

An Taisce have today written once more to Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, seeking that she protect the Late Bronze Age oak-built roadway discovered in 2005 at Mayne in County Westmeath.

The RTE TV programme ‘Ear To The Ground’ broadcast on the 14th of February featured a report on the Late Bronze Age oak-built roadway discovered in 2005 at Mayne in County Westmeath.

This monument is being systematically destroyed by peat extraction work conducted by Westland Horticultural.

To date your Department has failed to put a preservation order in place. It even failed to automatically add the site to the List of Monuments in the county.

The statement issued by your Department this week stated: ‘Should the trackway survive within the high bog, the feasibility of preservation in situ will be considered by all stakeholders’.

  • What measures have your Department taken to ascertain whether the oak roadway survives in this high bog area?
  • Given the discovery of a number of significant metal artefacts with probable associations to the monument, has your Department conducted a licensed metal detector survey of the roadway in its entirety? Or even partially?

It should be noted that only in recent weeks a fragment of one of the spearheads discovered at the site (and in the possession of the National Museum of Ireland) has been recovered.

Westland Horticulture has stated this week that ‘we have complied fully with all requirements of the National Monuments Service’. And why wouldn’t they when all the requirements by the State to date have been minimalistic and ineffective.

Fine Gael Councillor Andrew Duncan, the Chair of the Heritage Forum of Westmeath County Council, has called for a halt before ‘there’s very little to look after’. He has identified the monument as a ‘very viable tourist attraction’ that would be ‘an enormous draw’ to a ‘disadvantaged part of Westmeath’.

Mark Clinton, of An Taisce's Monuments & Antiquities Committee, stated "Is it not time that your officials took effective action to put a stop to this systematic destruction of 3,000 years of Irish heritage to supply garden compost for export."

ENDS

Dr. Mark Clinton, Monuments & Antiquities Committee, An Taisce. Tel: +353 1 832 2058
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce. Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

[1] Letter to the Minister 27/08/2015 http://www.antaisce.org/publications/letter-to-minister-humphreys-on-destruction-of-ancient-bog-road
[2] Press Release 27/08/2015 http://www.antaisce.org/articles/internationally-important-irish-archaeological-monument-being-destroyed-during-heritage
[3] Press Release 30/08/2015 http://www.antaisce.org/articles/an-taisce-seeks-action-from-minister-humphreys-over-destruction-of-ancient-bog-road

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

Application for waste soils recovery facility and Ecopark in Co. Wicklow refused by an Bord Pleanala

22nd February 2017
News Item

By the refusal of the application for the proposed development of a waste soils recovery facility and Ecopark at Priestsnewtown, Co. Wicklow, An Bord Pleanala have agreed with An Taisce’s position on the issue, in terms of its negative potential impacts. The decision was made based on the assertion by the Bord that;

  • “Proposed development would give rise to significant levels of disturbance to the site’s vegetation and ecology and introduce concerns in relation to the potential introduction of invasive species.”
  • “It hasn’t been adequately demonstrated that there are no other suitable alternatives for disposal of dredge spoil from the River Dargle Flood Defence Scheme or that the loss of biodiversity on the site has been adequately justified”.
  • “It is considered contrary to the Wicklow County Development Plan 2016-2022” and “proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

This substantiates many of the points made by An Taisce in our submission to the application, mainly in relation to likely negative impacts on a number of species of wildlife.

Badgers

The development had the potential to greatly affect badgers, a protected species, whose presence on site was acknowledged by the EIS of the application. While a badger derogation licence had been issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Services, the development would have resulted in the destruction of five setts and potential interference with others, with a significant chance of causing the collapse of the resident badger population. An Taisce took great issue with the potential loss of this clan of badgers. Badgers are territorial animals and are not capable of simply moving into another territory. Additionally, the survey for the proposal was conducted initially during September with further studies in November 2015, a time-frame which may not have accurately reflected badger activity [1] An Taisce continue to pursue the National Parks and Wildlife Services on their issuing of the derogation licence which runs counter to their remit to protect wildlife.

Terrestrial animals

The development could also have impacted on other species ‘likely to occur on site’, such as the hedgehog, Irish Stoat, Pine Marten, Pygmy Shrew Red Fox and European Rabbit.

Bats

The application also acknowledged the presence of numerous bat species using the site for foraging (but not roosting), such as Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Leisler’s , Natterer’s and Daubenton’s bat. Bats are listed under Annex I of the Habitats Directive and are protected under the Wildlife Act (Amendment) 2000. However, the proposed removal of vegetation (80%) on the site would potentially destroy this foraging habitat.

Water quality

Another protected species, the otter, could also have been adversely impacted, by effects on water quality, an extremely important consideration in the protection of the species. While the EIS asserted that the two streams on site were not suitable habitat for otter, it also acknowledged that these drained into the nearby Kilcoole Stream and that otters were ‘likely to be utilizing’ it. There is also a historic record of otters using it. Damage to water quality status (and subsequently otter habitat) would have been contrary to the Water Framework Directive and the conservation objectives for otter under Natura 2000.

This development had the potential to create habitat fragmentation, disturbance and run off impacts within the area. The refusal of this application is a successful outcome for biodiversity, particularly in relation to the species mentioned, and is a positive acknowledgement of the ecological value of the area.

Doireann Ni Cheallaigh, Planning Officer of An Taisce stated; “It is important that An Bord Pleanala have recognised the ecological significance of the area and the wildlife present on this site. This is a great result for the local community who have actively campaigned to protect a treasured part of their natural heritage.”

Notes: [1] National Roads Authority Guidelines state that ‘badger surveys are significantly constrained by vegetation cover and season, and are best conducted from November to April. National Roads Authority (2006),* Guidelines for the treatment of badgers prior to the construction of National Road Schemes*, National Roads Authority, Dublin. http://www.tii.ie/tii-library/environment/construction-guidelines/Guidelines-for-the-Treatment-of-Badgers-prior-to-the-Construction-of-a-National-Road-Scheme.pdf

Review of Meath County Development Plan 2019-2025 has commenced

23rd February 2017
News Item

What is a Development Plan?

A County Development Plan (CDP) is the overarching strategic framework, setting out key strategies, policies and objectives for a given county and plays a major role in influencing future growth, development and sustainable planning practices for a period of 6 years. CDPs form part of a hierarchy of planning and development srategies. In accordance with the provisions of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010, it is now a mandatory legal requirement that CDPs are ‘consistent with’ the relevant Regional Planning Guidelines and the National Spatial Strategy. These long term national and regional development strategies are shaped by planning law and a plethora of government guidelines relating to topics including transport, housing and the environment. In general, CDPs consist of a written statement and accompanying maps. CDPs include a vision for the overall county and include specific policies and objectives pertaining to a wide range of issues including housing, infrastructure, water, transport, natural and built heritage and climate change. Policies and objectives outlined in the Development Plans are factors against which planning applications are assessed. Any vagueness or ‘let-out’ clauses contained in a CDP can cause interpretation problems for the public, developers and officials and can result in delays in the planning process.

Why are Development Plans Important?

As populations continue to grow, areas are often faced with increasing pressures and problems. CDPs can represent a catalyst for positive change and allow for areas to develop in a plan led, sustainable manner. The planning system plays a vital role in the achievement of sustainable development. Resolution 42/187 of the United National General Assembly has defined sustainable development as ‘meeting the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’. CDPs should strive to establish a coherent framework for the coordinated sustainable economic, social, cultural and environmental development of a county. CDPs provide land-use zoning objectives for areas within the county. Zoning should support the principles of sustainable development, the integration of land use and transportation and the consolidation of urban centres. Land-use zoning that is predicated on sustainable development practices can provide economic, social and environmental benefits. CDPs should be reflective of a county’s diverse and unique features and should ensure that future development is directed in a manner that would maximize potential for the area.

Meath County Development Plan 2019-2025

The process for the formulation of the new Meath County Development Plan has commenced. A key challenge of the new Meath CDP will be to address the significant quantum of available zoned land and to align the location of zoning with the core strategy and key elements of the Regional Planning Guidelines for the Greater Dublin Area. An Taisce have raised specific concerns in relation to the quantum of zoned residential land and the location impact of all zoning on traffic generation and emissions of both residential and commercial development on climate and human beings. The current zoning and land use in areas of Co. Meath has resulted in unsustainable sprawl which can have serious impacts on the quality of life, economic vitality and environmental quality. The new CDP needs to address this unsustainable development pattern and focus on compact forms of land use and efficient use of resources. The CDP needs to establish compact development patterns, strengthen and direct development towards existing communities, and integrate land use with transportation. The benefits of implementing a shift from sprawl to sustainability would create central spaces, preserve environmentally sensitive lands and resources, reduce dependency on private modes of transport and vehicle miles travelled, contribute to Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas reduction targets and improve the quality of life of the citizens. An Taisce have submitted that further non-public transport accessible accommodation of commuter housing or employment location directed by demand generated from the GDA would be negative in effect on the environment. In addition, Co. Meath benefits from a wealth of rich heritage of demesnes, designated landscape associated with Castles and Country Houses. An Taisce have recommended that the most significant demesnes and designated landscape in the county be identified and planning policies applied to maintain and enhance their special character and significance in considering agricultural, recreation or other development.

How can you get involved?

The public will ultimately be affected by policies and objectives in a CDP. The formulation of Development Plans can allow us to design and distribute places and activities in a manner that can promote better quality of life, social outcomes and environmental quality. The public will be afforded the opportunity to contribute to the formulation of a CDP. The review of the Meath County Development Plan 2019-2025 has commenced. Submissions on Stage 1 of the process were being accepted by Meath County Council by 17th February. The next stage of the review process, Stage 2, will involve the publication of a draft County Development Plan. The public will have the opportunity to review the draft plan and make observation, submissions and suggestions for consideration to Meath County Council.

Doireann Ní Cheallagih - Planning Officer (01) 454 1786

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The Slash And Burn Bill is back this Thursday

26th February 2017
News Item

Dear Members and friends,

As you may be aware An Taisce in partnership with Birdwatch Ireland, Hedge Laying Association of Ireland and Irish Wildlife Trust have been campaigning for over a year against Minister Heather Humphreys, proposed changes to Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, which will allow cutting of hedgerows from the 1st of August and the burning and destroying of upland habitats until March 31st. There is overwhelming evidence that this proposal will have serious adverse consequences for Ireland’s already threatened and declining biodiversity. In recognition of this over 26,000 people have signed our No To More Slash and Burn petition to date. Despite this the Minister will bring these negative changes before the Seanad again this coming Thursday as part of the Heritage Bill 2016. Together we can stop this from happening. If you haven’t already please sign our petition. More importantly we need you to contact some key politicians within Fianna Fáil next Wednesday. Many Senators in the Seanad from independents to the Green Party, Sinn Féin and Labour can see this is a terrible bill. Fine Gael Senators are likely to back their Minister and vote this through so we believe that Fianna Fáil votes will be key. In particular we are asking you to email:

Éamon Ó Cuív TD - Spokesperson on Regional Development, Rural Affairs and the Gaeltacht Email: eamon.ocuiv@oir.ie Twitter: @eamonocuiv

Niamh Smyth TD - Spokesperson on Arts and Heritage Email: niamh.smyth@oireachtas.ie Twitter: @NiamhSmythTD

Senator Catherine Ardagh - Fianna Fáil Leader in the Seanad Email: catherine@ardagh.org Twitter: @cardagh

Charlie McConalogue TD - Spokesperson on Agriculture, Food and the Marine Email: charlie.mcconalogue@oir.ie Twitter: @McConalogue

We need you to ask these influential leaders in Fianna Fáil to ensure that their party does not support this disastrous bill. Please in your own words let them know how important Ireland’s natural heritage is to you and why you don’t support the Heritage Bill 2016.

Key points

• This bill will not make our roads safer. Section 40 of the Wildlife Act already includes a derogation to allow local authorities to cut hedges where there are road safety issues. This is a key point as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have consistently pitched this bill as being pro health and safety when 1) It does nothing to strengthen the existing health and safety derogation and 2) the bill does not apply to road side hedges during all of the summer rather it applies to all hedges throughout August.

• Any changes on road safety grounds should be raised under Section 70 of the Roads Act.

• This bill is not a pilot. There is no baseline data and no sunset clause. Based on the best scientific evidence we know that this bill will have a disastrous impact on wildlife.

• Yellowhammer, Linnet and Greenfinch nest well into September and therefore hedgecutting could justifiably be restricted until mid-September.

• Curlew and other upland breeding birds will have begun their nesting activities in March and will therefore be impacted by these changes. These species require tall vegetation to nest and burning in March will destroy vital breeding and nesting habitat.

• Other wildlife which will be impacted includes bats, hedgehogs, butterflies and other invertebrates and small mammals which rely on hedgerow flowers and fruit for food. In particular bees will be effected by the loss of floral resources. This at a time when we are rolling out the All Ireland Pollinator Plan to try and halt severe bee decline.

• There are already 6 months of the year when landowners can cut hedgerows and burn vegetation. These changes are not in line with the changes being made by other European Countries to improve environmental protections at a national level.

• Further research is needed into the effect on wildlife of burning uplands in March and cutting hedgerows in August before these changes can be justified.

• This bill will seriously undermine Irelands reputation as a source of green food and drink undermining our exporting power abroad.

• This bill has totally ignored sectors such as the bee keeping and fruit sectors which rely on pollinators which in turn rely on pollen in August to survive the winter.